by Katie Chiou
Blog Post #1
an asian-american in their asian homeland
let me first tell you that never in my life will I ever experience this sweltering, thick heat outside of my homeland. but so too will I never feel that sense of relief in walking into a seven-eleven and feeling the sweat evaporate from my neck.
so too will I never experience the excitement of soft-boiled eggs in plastic packaging, perfect for placement on top of instant ramen with real REAL pieces of meat. like, 牛肉面 real.
as I hideout from the heat inside a shopping center(all malls seem to be relatively similar across countries?) I am stopped by a vendor marketing L’Herbiflore face masks.
she has a tiny face mask, eye hole mouth hole and all on the back of her hand. I am too polite to walk away, as I am in America. look, patting – do you speak mandarin? cantonese? is your dad American? really? you look half American (read: white) though.
I walk away with a tiny mask of my own on my hand.
what gives me away as the foreigner?
is it my lack of reading ability? is it that I am holding a map of the subway system? is it my slightly ombred-hair?
On all of those accounts, you would be right. But you would also be wrong.
I am American because I am fat.
Or so I am told. I’m not “as fat” as expected for an American, I’m told too.
I am also dressed all wrong, not wearing the latest styles. I am not pale- ghostly white but rather a tan no matter how hard I try because BY JOVE, HOW DO YOU STAY PALE WITH THIS SUN BEATING DOWN ON YOUR FACE? I’m literally wearing your sunscreen, asian homeland!!
I am aware of all the passerbys who scrutinize and wonder why I do not cover up flabby thighs and flabby arms and imperfect skin and wear a hat more and eat less drink less boba. they are unhappy that I am existing in the way that I am and I am aware. I am not yet strong enough to fight back, so I diet on my trip to Taiwan and then I regret it as soon as I step foot in the American lands and pull up Youtube to watch Simply Dumpling go on food tours of the city where I just was and then I am saddened by missed opportunities and weighed down by regret and a not-skinnier body.
Blog Post #2
when a white walks into my home
he may pinch his nose and ask what is that smell? it permeates – the sweater that you wore to the last hot pot excursion, the suede of sofa inhaling and emanating the scent as white person sits down and is offered tea.
that smell has found its way into the tea, whose leaves are kept in the egg slots of the refrigerator. that smell wraps its furls into the bedroom, ferment unfolding from the pillow as you lay down to breathe in. I mask it with my night lavender spray.
when a white walks into my home, he asks if he should take off his shoes. duh, take off your shoes, it’s called when in rome do as the romans do.
he’s usually a lil too tall so his head hits the pagoda chandelier hanging from living room. this pagoda was not a luxury placed by my family. this pagoda is a representation of what we have appropriated from the asian cultures because Japanese style implies a minimalistic sleekness and Chinese style implicates red and lion statues and terra cotta soldiers (@PFChangs) and Korean style is a little nebulous in the American imagination.
did you stop and realize that we only spoke for the east asian cultures prominent in the American cultural imagination of the asian world?
when a white walks into my home, what he is smelling is fermented kimchi, handmade by a grandmother who had to roll the stem of the napa cabbage until the water was released and the gochujang could be hand-mushed into every little crevice. when a white walks into my home, the smell is overpowering and a little disorienting but he is loathe to comment the same way I am loathe to comment because he can neither put his finger on the smell nor can he voice
his distaste because to say “ew your house smells like kimchi” has become clearly inappropriate and no white wants to be labelled RACIST.
Blog Post #3
when I look in the mirror
I squint my eyes and then unsquint my eyes and then stare deep into its brown- ness to find the flecks of gold that brunettes are supposed to have and which makes the brown attractive. have you ever noticed they only use chocolatey- brown as a positive term for dogs’ eyes and boys’ eyes. but girls do not need or want chocolatey-brown eyes, instead we go for coloured contacts adding a sheen of grey and a jarring sense of misplacement. how are you supposed to accentuate brown with makeup?
but my eyes are not a total loss! I have 쌍꺼풀, double eyelids which supposedly make my eyes larger. why is larger good? I dunno why don’t you ask all those white kids who ask why your eyes get so chinky in the sun? (fam, your eyes get chinky too, don’t even.)
the reality of this story is that social expectations for my face are such: large eyes, the better. a high nose bridge, pointy and not flat. a 3:5 proportion, with a v-shape chin. small face, can be covered by your hand. double-eye lids are a must, a procedure gifted for every girl and boy from their parents for graduation. plastic surgery is ok, but not too much otherwise you will be a plastic-mon, or a girl who got too much plastic surgery and its obvious.
the story of the asian american face is a different.
we do not have the standards for big eyes, white skin, and v shaped chin.
a high nose bridge is still recommended. what matters most is the body and style here:
are you an abg?
Blog Post #4
How to Become an ABG
Step 1: Dye your hair one of the following shades: all blonde, orange-brown, or red brown. Ombre is also acceptable: blonde, blue-violet, silver, red, and reddish-pink.
Step 2: Buy false eyelashes. I recommend not Daiso’s.
Step 3: Master the line between tan and whiteness. Use the bronzing brush that American Youtubers (@mannyMUA) have taught you – that is how you distinguish between ABG and International.
Step 4: Get a thigh gap but also a booty. Not sure how this is possible, but it must be possible.
Step 5: Wardrobe is of the utmost importance. Combat boots, black dresses, chokers, Adidas sneakers, ripped black skinny jeans.
Step 6: Go to raves. I don’t know what this is, because it costs too much money! I think it has something to do with neon lights and EDM music.
Step 7: Revel in how you’ve assimilated into a new burgeoning culture: the Asian American experience. Think about what it cost to get you here: the gym pass, Sephora makeup, hair salon.
Sexualization and objectification is sought for here, the way to blend blend blend!
Blog Post #6
when white people cannot understand what you are saying
because the professor’s accent is so heavy and they wish they had signed up for the other section for their chemistry class because this chemistry grade is life or death and medical school is looming on the horizon
but of course, they would never say that. they might say, well sometimes I just have a hard time with asian accents. but they cannot say that they prefer the white professor because that is racist and you must be careful of how you phrase this. most whites will not bring this up at all besides saying the professor is hard to understand or the professor needs to be more clear or they may just stop showing up to this professor’s section and go to the other section.
when white people cannot understand what you are saying, sometimes they try to guess and then it is laughably funny how off they are but they do not laugh because to laugh at an accent is racist.
my dad was once referencing my education and the white mom in the room thought I was on a medication and it made no sense. he has a Portuguese Chinese accent that is a mix of wording that nobody besides me who has grown up with his accent is able to understand but clearly the white cannot say, sorry what I cannot understand your accent. this leaves both parties embarrassed either way.
when the asian person says sorry after they were not understood the white person must quickly come in and wave that concern away – no, no I just couldn’t hear you, or no, no, the background noise was drowning you out but never is it no, no your accent was a bit heavy then but if you say it slower it will be fine.
sometimes the asian-american raised in America has an accent too. it comes out when we are gesticulating. when we are debating and the energy in the room is high and we are trying oh so hard to get the judge to understand our side.
sometimes the white person will ask: was K born here? to ascertain whether or not they should give the feedback: try to enunciate or if that is racist.
what you must know is that the asian parent has recently been told that he/she/they must not speak to their child as they are growing up for fear that their asian american child will have an accent, and those with accents do not get the jobs, the interviews, the merit for their ideas that they may or may not deserve. so the asian parent is told to speak in their mother tongue as much as possible for the dual purpose too of teaching their child to adhere to their roots – what kind of asian child cannot speak their asian language? that is the sign of bad parenting! not even the asian language school?
the asian parent takes this continuation of culture seriously, rapping their child on the back of the knuckle when they speak in English to their siblings or when they use their chopsticks improperly.
but unfortunately, the asian parent was not taught to avoid speaking to their child until recently and that is why there is my generation of asian american
children who have asian accents when they are excited but no one will take them seriously.
I am fortunate that my parents worked two jobs and could not spend time with me, so then I was shipped off to after school programs with the white kids and could learn proper English.